Lensless seascapes, a trip to Birling gap - Take 2

In early February, my journey to Birling Gap in Sussex for some pinhole seascapes turned into a bit of a disaster. It wasn't until I started developing the film that I realized what went wrong. Curious? See why here..

Fast forward to last Saturday, March 16th. Equipped with a couple of cameras—a Harman Titan 4x5 and my brand-new modular Mia 4x5 (more on that in the coming weeks)—I decided to give Birling Gap another shot. I also brought along my Mia 6x12, though it ended up staying in my bag unused.

Unlike the perfect, moody weather of my previous trip, this time I was greeted by a low, harsh morning sun. This posed a challenge, as I didn't want my own shadow or my cameras' shadows intruding into the images or shooting into direct sunlight. Feeling a bit restricted, I focused my efforts on capturing the scenes out at sea or facing back up the beach...most the time.

Birling Gap is a picturesque section of beach that forms part of the Seven Sisters cliffs near Beachy Head. At low tide, a mesmerizing rocky seashore is unveiled. The beach is accessed via a series of steps making it a popular spot for photographers seeking stunning coastal imagery. With its rugged beauty and captivating scenery, Birling Gap provides the perfect backdrop for capturing seascape images.

With my trusty Harman Titan 4x5, I set  out to find my first image. Surprisingly, it took me a bit longer than expected to find that initial spark of inspiration. However, amongst the rocky seashore I found this rock in a patch of sand with some nice shadows from the harsh morning sun.

Setting up my tripod was a bit of a challenge as it slowly sank into the soft sand. Patiently, I waited for it to settle before capturing my shot. Stepping back, I couldn't help but doubt whether the image truly captured what I had envisioned. Nevertheless, upon development, it turned out ok.

Seashores and pinhole cameras are a perfect combination. The natural long exposure of a pinhole camera lends itself perfectly to the dynamic movement of crashing waves and swirling currents. As water dances between the rocks, a dreamy fog-like effect emerges, casting an ethereal quality over the scene.

The gentle softness in pinhole photography adds to the enchantment, softening the edges and infusing the images with a sense of tranquility. Coupled with the near-infinite depth of field characteristic of pinhole cameras, the result is a captivating seascape that invites viewers to lose themselves in its serene beauty. 

In this particular image, the waves were crashing between some channels of rocks. It was a precarious position, almost falling into a pool of water behind me a few times. However, I was determined to capture the moment.

With a lengthy exposure time of 1 minute and 20 seconds, the magic of the pinhole camera came to life. The relentless motion of the crashing waves was transformed into a mesmerizing blur, resembling a mystical fog enveloping the rocks. Despite the challenges and near slips, the resulting image encapsulated the raw power and serene beauty of the seascape, making the effort well worth it.

For my third and final shot with the Harman Titan, I decided to capture a the view along the cliffs. On the horizon, a glimpse of Cuckmere Haven—a favorite spot of mine—beckoned with its stunning vistas of the Seven Sisters.

With the sun at my back, the silhouette of my camera and tripod cast a subtle shadow. Conscious of avoiding my own shadow creeping into the frame, I carefully maneuvered myself during the 10-second exposure to eliminate any unwanted distractions. Despite the brief exposure time, it was enough to capture the rhythmic motion of the waves crashing against the rocks, adding a dynamic element to the serene landscape.

Transitioning to the new Mia modular 4x5 pinhole camera was an exciting moment for me. Not only was it a fresh addition to my gear, but it also boasted Mia's own laser-drilled pinholes—a feature I was eager to put to the test.

As the sun gradually shifted, casting some nice light on the cliff face, I set out to capture a scene that would highlight both the rugged beauty of the landscape and the unique qualities of the pinhole camera. My quest led me to seek out a rockpool adorned with a solitary rock, offering a mirror-like reflection of the towering cliffs.

I eventually came across this rock pool with a slightly submerged rock in the centre. However, setting up the shot proved to be quite the challenge. Wrestling with the tripod's cumbersome legs hindered my efforts to find the perfect angle. Fortunately, I had the foresight to bring along my compact Artcise CS20C tripod, which proved to be a lifesaver in navigating the tight spaces and achieving the desired composition.

As I scouted for my final shot, my attention was drawn to a mesmerizing scene. I was watching the waves as they crashed against a break in the rocks, creating a beautiful pattern around a central rock formation.

With the light still casting a nice light on the cliff face, I knew this was the perfect moment to capture the scene. Despite encountering some challenges during setup, I persevered trying to keep the tripod legs out of the water and being knocked by incoming waves

Though it may have been a bit of a struggle to get everything just right, I pushed through, knowing that the end result would be worth the effort. And indeed, as I reviewed the final image, I was rewarded with a stunning depiction of nature's power and beauty, a fitting conclusion to a memorable day of pinhole photography at the beach.

In conclusion, my day at Birling Gap with my pinhole cameras was both challenging and rewarding. Despite facing obstacles like harsh sunlight and tricky tripod setups, I was able to capture a series of images that truly encapsulated the beauty and dynamism of the seaside landscape.

From the dreamy fog-like effects of crashing waves to the serene reflections in rockpools, each photograph tells a story of the ever-changing nature of the coastline. Through experimentation and persistence, I was able to push the boundaries of my creativity and explore new techniques with my cameras.

Until next time, take care.


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